A NEW poll has shown unprecedented levels of support for Nicola Sturgeon across Great Britain.

 

The exclusive TNS snapshop for The Herald of almost 1200 adults shows that among men and women, across all age groups and in every nation and region covering Scotland, England and Wales, the First Minister now has the highest net approval rating.

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Following the televised General Election debates, the SNP leader's profile was raised north and south of the Border with many believing Ms Sturgeon was the winner not just in the seven-cornered leaders' debate and the challengers' debate but in the Scottish leaders' debates too.

Her admirers described her as the most powerful woman in UK politics while her detractors dubbed her the most dangerous.

The poll, conducted during the middle of this month, shows that across Britain Ms Sturgeon has the highest net approval rating of +33; a record for TNS. She is followed by Ukip's Nigel Farage on +12, Conservative leader David Cameron on +7, Labour leader Ed Miliband on -8 and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on -22.

Among men, she has the highest net rating of +32 and among women of +35. Similarly, she tops ratings across every different age group from +17 among 18 to 24-year-olds to +43 among over 65s.

In every part of Britain,the First Minister is also top of the polling from +30 in north-east England to +38 in Wales and the West Country and +33 in Greater London.

In Scotland, she is the only leader to have a positive rating; +55. Mr Miliband polled -2, Mr Cameron - 7, Mr Farage - 15 and Mr Clegg - 34.

Stewart Hosie, the SNP's deputy leader, said: "These exceptionally strong poll ratings show two things. First, that Nicola Sturgeon is head and shoulders above the other party leaders, both at Westminster and Holyrood.

"And second, the figures suggest that people north and south of the border like what Nicola is saying about how a strong team of SNP MPs, standing up for Scotland, can also contribute to delivering more progressive policies for the benefit of people across the UK."

Tom Costley, head of TNS Scotland, said: "It is clearly evident that Nicola Sturgeon's performance during the campaign has resonated well with the electorate, recognising her strengths as leader of the SNP even amongst those outside Scotland who cannot choose to vote SNP."

This morning, Mr Miliband will use a keynote speech in London to focus on the family budget, claiming that a second Tory term, in which David Cameron is intent to cut £12bn more from welfare, would result in "a raid of £3.8bn on tax credits", leaving some families £2000 a year worse off.

The Labour leader will say: "Today, I am here to reveal the truth: if the Tories get back in on May 8, your family budget is at risk.

"Another five years of Tory government will mean a plan to double the pace of cuts next year; a plan that puts your family budget, your NHS and our country's future at risk."

Tory HQ responded by saying: "There's one guaranteed risk to working people's finances; Ed Miliband, propped up by the SNP, crashing the economy and putting up taxes, just like he did last time."

In Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon will insist the SNP "can be stronger for Scotland and progressive for the UK" and she will denounce as a "democratic outrage" the suggestion from some Conservative quarters that Scotland's votes do not matter.

But Mr Cameron, who suggested there were just 10 days to save the Union, argued that the SNP leader was selling "a false dream" to Scots given there were huge holes in the case for independence.

"This dream will fade but it's going to take some time and the parties like mine that believe in the UK are going to have to fight very hard," he said.

As official figures showed the pace of UK growth had slowed to its lowest rate for more than two years at 0.3 per cent in the first quarter, the PM clashed with his Labour opponents over the meaning of the latest statistics.

Mr Cameron used them to urge voters not to take Britain's economic recovery for granted when they went to the polls a week tomorrow but to "stick to the plan",warning Labour would "bring our economy to a juddering halt".

Last night it was reported that Mr Cameron would, if re-elected, ban tax rises during the lifetime of the next Parliament - taking away a key decision from the Chancellor.

But Ed Balls for Labour claimed the worse-than-expected numbers showed the Coalition's plan to "fix" the economy had failed and a new direction was needed.

Elsewhere, Ukip's Nigel Farage was accused of peddling the politics of fear and intolerance after he accused the SNP of being "openly racist" in promoting anti-English sentiment in Scotland. But Scottish Government Minister Humza Yousaf denounced the remarks as disgraceful and offensive and insisted all Ukip had to offer was "nasty rhetoric".